Introduction to The Story of an Hour

“The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin was published in Vogue magazine in 1894. It details the reaction of Louise Mallard, who suffers from a heart condition, to the news of the supposed death of her husband, Brently, in a railroad accident. Though Louise is at first stricken with grief, she soon realizes that Brently’s death means that she is finally free from the expectations of a traditional marriage, and she is filled with a sudden hope for her future. However, in a twist of situational irony, Brently is revealed to be alive, and Louise dies from the shock of seeing him.

1890 saw the women’s suffrage movement gaining traction, but traditional social mores still insisted that the ideal woman was a self-sacrificing wife and mother. Chopin’s story rejects convention and instead portrays Brently’s death as a moment of emancipation for Louise, suggesting that the conventional model of marriage is a repressive institution that prevents women from achieving self-actualization. This was a controversial view at the time the story was written, and “The Story of an Hour” was rejected by several magazines, including the Century and, initially, Vogue. It was only after Chopin found success in other writing endeavors that Vogue agreed to publish the story. It has since become one of Chopin’s best-known works, though it remained controversial long past its initial publication.

A Brief Biography of Kate Chopin

Kate Chopin (1850–1904) was born to an Irish immigrant father and a French American mother. Though she was the third of five children, her older half-brothers died in their early twenties, and her younger sisters died in infancy. Her father died when she was four.

Kate Chopin’s life and work, considered together, show how difficult it is to define female identity in America. Chopin’s greatest works (The Awakening, “The Story of an Hour”) are defined by portraits of women becoming aware of their own desires, struggling to realize them, and dying. In her own life, it was Chopin’s loved ones who died and Chopin herself who lived to juggle artistic, social, and sexual desires while raising six children alone and dealing with her late husband’s debts. Her works repeatedly refuse to provide simple answers and instead draw readers into the complexities created by passion, racial bias, and the demands imposed by society.

Frequently Asked Questions about The Story of an Hour

The Story of an Hour

In the first paragraph of "The Story of an Hour," Mrs. Mallard is introduced as a woman suffering from a heart condition who is unaware of her husband's recent death. Mrs. Mallard's heart condition...

Latest answer posted October 7, 2020, 12:27 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Story of an Hour

When Mrs. Mallard first learns her husband has been reported dead in a train accident, she is grieved. But as she goes off to a room by herself, she realizes with great joy that she is free from...

Latest answer posted October 7, 2020, 11:14 am (UTC)

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The Story of an Hour

The reason for Josephine's hesitation to tell Louise Mallard that her husband, Brently, has died relates to Mrs. Mallard's frail health. Josephine is Louise Mallard's sister, and she presumably...

Latest answer posted October 7, 2020, 11:08 am (UTC)

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The Story of an Hour

Brently Mallard's friend Richards is very much the messenger of death in "The Story of an Hour." As well as bringing Louise Mallard news—fake news, as it turns out—of her husband's death, he is...

Latest answer posted October 7, 2020, 11:22 am (UTC)

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The Story of an Hour

After Louise Mallard receives the tragic news of her husband's death, she immediately bursts into tears before retreating to her upstairs room, where she experiences a remarkable epiphany. As...

Latest answer posted October 7, 2020, 11:59 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Story of an Hour

Richards rushes to Mrs. Mallard to tell her the news of her husband's death in a railroad accident because he is afraid of someone without knowledge of her heart condition trying to tell her first....

Latest answer posted October 7, 2020, 11:14 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Story of an Hour

Mrs. Mallard gives the impression that although she likes her husband, she certainly doesn't love him. She candidly describes him as being nice to her and full of love, but it's abundantly clear...

Latest answer posted October 7, 2020, 11:09 am (UTC)

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The Story of an Hour

At the beginning of "The Story of an Hour," Mrs. Mallard is given some shocking news. A man arrives at her home to tell her that her husband has been tragically killed in a "railroad disaster."...

Latest answer posted October 7, 2020, 11:13 am (UTC)

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The Story of an Hour

In the context of a story, irony often leads to humor, but in the case of "The Story of an Hour," the irony is somewhat macabre. The irony in this instance is situational irony, in which the...

Latest answer posted October 7, 2020, 11:21 am (UTC)

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The Story of an Hour

When Louise Mallard first hears of her husband's death, she weeps; but as she comes to reflect on what widowhood will mean for her, her reaction changes to one of joy. The thing coming for her is...

Latest answer posted October 7, 2020, 11:41 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Story of an Hour

Initially, it is not clear that Mrs. Mallard was unhappy in her marriage. At least, it does not seem to be clear to Mrs. Mallard herself until after she hears about her husband's death and begins...

Latest answer posted October 7, 2020, 11:29 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Story of an Hour

In Kate Chopin's "The Story of an Hour," Mrs. Louise Mallard experiences mixed emotions after receiving the news of her husband's sudden death. A friend visits her to inform her that her husband...

Latest answer posted October 7, 2020, 11:35 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Story of an Hour

"The Story of an Hour" has an ironic ending on two levels. First, it is an example of situational irony, in which the plot does not turn out the way a reader—or the characters in the story—expect....

Latest answer posted October 7, 2020, 11:27 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Story of an Hour

The "joy that kills" in "The Story of an Hour" is reflective of Louise Mallard's "heart trouble" that is referenced in the opening line of the story. These two phrases provide bookends to the story...

Latest answer posted October 7, 2020, 11:30 am (UTC)

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The Story of an Hour

Louise Mallard's heart condition and the other characters' reactions to it provide the background for the irony in "The Story of an Hour." Louise has a heart condition that makes severe emotional...

Latest answer posted October 7, 2020, 11:26 am (UTC)

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The Story of an Hour

There are a number of symbols used in "The Story of an Hour," which is the story of Louise Mallard's surprising reaction to the news of her husband's death and her fatal reaction to the news that...

Latest answer posted October 7, 2020, 11:33 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Story of an Hour

Strange as it may sound, Mrs. Mallard dies because of the shock of discovering that her husband is still alive and that she is therefore not free of the strictures of marriage. The story starts...

Latest answer posted October 7, 2020, 11:13 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Story of an Hour

The conflict in "The Story of an Hour" is internal. That is, the conflict is between Louise's sense of duty as a wife and her sudden feeling of release and freedom on learning of her husband's...

Latest answer posted October 7, 2020, 11:38 am (UTC)

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The Story of an Hour

In Kate Chopin's celebrated short story "The Story of an Hour," the protagonist, Louise Mallard, receives the tragic news of her husband's death and experiences a remarkable transformation when she...

Latest answer posted October 7, 2020, 11:24 am (UTC)

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The Story of an Hour

"The Story of an Hour" was written during a time when women's roles were highly restricted by society. Marriage and motherhood were the highest goals a woman was supposed to have. Within marriage,...

Latest answer posted October 6, 2020, 11:23 am (UTC)

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Summary